How to Listen to Podcasts

Teenage girl listening to music with headphones and mp3 player on living room sofa
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Just as you might have a favorite radio station or show, podcasts are just like radio programs that you subscribe to and get downloaded to your podcast listening device, such as a smartphone, iPod, or computer.

Formats of podcasts can be talk shows, call-in sports shows, audiobooks, poetry, music, news, sightseeing tours, and much more. Podcasts are different from radio in that you get a series of pre-recorded audio or video files from the internet that are sent to your device.

The word "podcast" is a portmanteau, or word mashup, of "iPod" and "broadcast," which was coined in 2004.

Subscribe to a Podcast

Just like you can get a magazine subscription for content that you like, you can subscribe to podcasts for content you want to hear or watch. In the same way that a magazine arrives in your mailbox when a new edition comes out, a podcast application uses podcast software to automatically download or notify you when new content becomes available.

It's handy so that you don't have to keep checking the podcast's website to see if there are new shows; you can always have the freshest shows available on your podcast listening device.

Tuning In With iTunes

One of the easiest ways to get started with podcasts is by using iTunes. It is a free and easy download. Search for podcasts on the menu. Once there, you can select podcasts by category, genre, top shows, and provider. You can listen to an episode in iTunes on the spot, or you can download a single episode. If you like what you hear, you can subscribe to all future episodes of a show. iTunes can download the content so it is ready for you to listen to and that content can be synced to your listening device.

Podcast Directories

Directories are basically searchable lists of podcasts of every type. They are great places to search for new podcasts that may interest you. The most commonly used, at least by Apple users is iTunes or the Podcast app on iOS devices. But, if you don't want to use iTunes, there are several free or nominal fee options for podcasting apps for searching, downloading, and listening to podcasts, such as Spotify, MediaMonkey, and Stitcher Radio.

Podcasts Storage

Downloaded podcasts are stored on your device. If you save lots of back episodes of your podcasts, you can quickly use up several gigabytes of hard drive space. In order to save space, you may want to delete old episodes. Many podcasting applications will let you do this from within their software interfaces.

Streaming Podcasts

You can also stream a podcast, which means, you can play it directly from iTunes or another podcasting app, without downloading it. For example, this is a good option if you are on wifi, a wireless network, or at home on an internet connection since it will not tax your data plan (if you are on a smartphone, away from a wifi spot). Another disadvantage to streaming long or many podcasts from a smartphone is that it can consume a lot of battery power if you are not plugged in and charging at the same time.